House Committee Advances Marijuana Protections for Veterans

Washington, DC: Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) passed two separate pieces of legislation today pertaining to cannabis policy.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country, the absolute least we owe them is to ensure they are taken care of when they return to civilian life,” stated NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “It is imperative that we approve legislation such as the Veterans Equal Access Act so that the countless vets suffering from post-traumatic stress and other debilitating disorders have access to the safe and effective option of medical marijuana treatment.”

The first bill, HR 712, known as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act of 2019, directs Veterans Administration to conduct research on marijuana in regard to a wide variety of ailments commonly associated with service-related issues. This bill was introduced by Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) and a similar version of this bill also passed in HVAC but was not considered on the floor of the House.

The second bill, HR 1647, known as the Veterans Equal Access Act of 2019, allows V.A. doctors to fill out the state-legal medical marijuana recommendations. Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Originally introduced years ago by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, this marks the first time that the bill has been considered by HVAC.

After the passage, Rep. Blumenauer said, “Today was a monumental day for our veterans. We have been working for years to reform this counterproductive policy that forces veterans outside of the VA to receive legal medical cannabis treatment for chronic pain and PTSD. This is the culmination of the tremendous work of our movement, but we will not be finished until this becomes the law of the land . We must reform our federal cannabis policy.”

Both bills were only assigned to the HVAC, so now it is up to the House Majority to schedule floor time for the whole chamber to cast their votes.

In the United States, the veterans population consumes cannabis at rates far higher than the general population, with the majority reporting their use for medical purposes. According to polling conducted by the American Legion, 22% of veterans said they themselves “use cannabis to treat a mental or physical condition.”

For more information, contact Justin Strekal, NORML Political Director, at (202) 483-5500.